Theme vs Function Argument
One of my favorite arguments in Warhammer Fantasy and Warhammer 40k is the principle that people argue “Theme vs Function”. Whereas a list apparently can not be effective and function efficiently if you have instituted a semblance of theme or that dreaded word …fluff. So before we open that can of worms, let us discuss the principle of why people choose to “Theme” their lists in Fantasy and 40k.
Fluffhammer, those about to lose we salute you!
This game, and actually most games these days, has the creators spending inordinate amounts of time creating this rich and lush back story to their little miniature combat game. Warhammer has a 30 year back story and 40k is right behind it with 25 years in the pipe. The world is filled with heroes, villains, grand battles, cataclysmic events, betrayals and alliances, horrible tragedies and grand triumphs. Every rule book has half of it dedicated to the back story and models in order to fully immerse the players in the world the author has created. The army books and codices have most of their bulk dedicated to the story that is rife with lore and history that is meant to inspire players to build themed lists to recreate legendary battles or armies of long dead heroes. The other half of the book contains pictures of models or illustrations that are meant to spark the imagination, while a small section of 8-9 pages detail the unit costs and stats.
With all of this reinforcement for lore and fluff, it is not surprising that many players have a theme to their army. Many players (me included) will name characters and units and give them a back story or build a story around the unit based on actions that happened in game. The entire army will comprise of units that are more in tune with the “story” of that army which may or may not be the most optimal choices for the army.
The notion of a themed list is something that causes the “hardcore tournament” players to look at fluffy or themed lists with an overly critical eye and immediately dismiss those lists that are “sub-optimal” because the list choices do not match up with the meta game. I find this is a massive disservice to many players who have their list designs and themes immediately dismissed under the guise of “effective choices.”
I think this type of mentality is ultimately damaging to the hobby. List creation using the most optimal and effective units does not take a lot of critical thinking nor real hard decision making. It involves finding a combo and then spamming the best choices generally. I do not have anything against this type of list other than it really lacks substance to me. The only thing I have against this is the mentality it generates that if you don’t take these combos or types of units then you can’t win. That is a terrible misconception as I have thrived for years using under powered and “sub optimal” lists to win tournaments, events and generally rise above to conquer with my figurative swords held aloft blazing with the flames of VICTORY!..
Did I take an opportunity to brag on how awesome I am? Of course I did, this is my blog and I’m going to behave like God’s gift to Warhammer. Wouldn't you?
Getting back to the actual line of thinking, I would like to see players building lists that fulfill a theme or a story. You can make an incredibly effective list using fluffy options it just requires the general to use something that gets sacrificed a bit when you spam the “best units”… strategy. Players are always welcome to build their army however they wish as it is their money and their time they are putting into the hobby but theme is always neat to see. But I feel that you can still use effective combinations by while having sub-optimal units in the army. This just requires a different method of using the units and capitalizing on what most tournament players don’t count for, the anti-meta.
When more and more players engage in this type of thinking and build lists using this ideology then you begin to do something which should have been done a long time ago.
You invalidate comp.
I have made it well known my opinion of composition restrictions on events. I dislike anyone telling me I can’t take something in my list. I expect players to actually exercise sportsmanship rather than just talk about it. I feel that gaming organizations and clubs should be aware of how their players interact and help those members of their group that are “sportsmanship-challenged” a.k.a. douche bags work towards being fun to play against.
Composition as a general rule does not work as people are attempting to enforce sportsmanship through list building rather than through actual interaction and conversations. Anyone can take a completely restricted list and still play and act like an utter and complete douche bag. Composition is a lazy way of instituting sportsmanship in a community. A gaming community should understand that some combinations are very difficult to counter in an army list and if someone is employing them then the players should learn to counteract them by playing well. Now I’m sure the next comment is “Well John these combinations are comp’d because the games aren't fun because they are ass beatings!” Well to think that you are never going to encounter a tough game and lose is naive at best. And if you are complaining that in a tournament that someone brought something that is termed “competitive” and beat you with it…. No kidding? You mean someone brought the right tools to get the job done at a tournament? Does this mean they are guaranteed to win? No. However, you can have a fun game with someone and still get beaten. The difference is having an opponent who is using that combination not act like a jerk while playing. In the end it’s a dice game and regardless of what super powered unit they take, 1’s are 1’s.
I’m digressing from my initial point that a fluffy, themed list should never be underestimated as the list is only as effective as its general. Expect the unexpected!
To be continued!